Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 351–374 | Cite as

Global Progress II: Evolutionary Mechanisms and their Side-effects

  • Francis Heylighen
  • Jan Bernheim


This paper attempts to update the 18th century concept of progress by an evolutionary theoretical framework, while replying to some of the contemporary critiques. Progress, understood as increase in fitness (or its proxy, quality of life) necessarily accompanies evolution by natural selection. In socio-cultural evolution, this mechanism is reinforced by growth of knowledge and virtuous cycles, but can be accompanied by negative side-effects such as overshooting and parasitism. The most pressing of the contemporary side-effects, such as pollution and the increased pace of life, are discussed, but it is concluded that they can be tackled without really endangering global progress. The anxiety that they engender is unfortunately amplified by a “bad news” bias in the media, leading to an inappropriately pessimistic view of the situation by the public.

progress quality of life optimism pessimism social indicators world view evolution development global change information overload. 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Free University of BrusselsCenter “Leo Apostel”BrusselsBelgium

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